An anchor in the sea of change. (Book Review).
The federal acquisition environment has changed significantly in the last couple of years. The advent of commercial contracting, electronic procurement, and performance-based acquisition has considerably changed the way the federal government procures supplies and services.
Despite these new procurement initiatives, what has not changed in government procurement are the basic fundamentals of the federal acquisition process--the authority of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) system, the agency and legislative implications and peculiarities of federal acquisition. These unique procurement aspects have been a part of, and will continue to be, a significant aspect of federal contracting.
For this reason, Emmett Hearn's Federal Acquisition and Contract Management will continue to be a valuable guide and reference book for all players in the federal procurement process. This is not a book that will remain unopened alongside those hard-to-read government procurement regulations, but a handy reference tool that will guide you through the rough-water rapids of the government procurement process.
Hearn has written a text that is unique in several ways. Most manuals or references on federal procurement are written from one of two different perspectives. First, you have the books written for acquisition attorneys, who deal with the intricacies of the federal acquisition legal system. These books focus on the case law and court cases of federal contracts. Second, you have the books written specifically for companies that desire to start marketing to the government. These books provide guidance and advice for identifying government opportunities, developing government proposals, and hopefully, winning government contracts.
Hearn's book, however, is written for federal acquisition practitioners--those lucky few program managers, contracts managers, government contracting officers, and buyers, who are faced with the challenge of managing federal contracts from pre-award to post-award. Practitioners working as buyers and sellers, or at the prime or subcontractor level, will find this an excellent reference for the basic fundamentals of the federal procurement process.
This edition of Federal Acquisition and Contract Management follows the same successful format and progression as previous editions, including many necessary updates. Hearn also includes the appropriate FAR references throughout the text, as well as numerous FAR standard forms, so it is easy to cross-reference with the regulatious.
Part 1, "The Basic Elements of Federal Contracting," begins with a thorough review of federal government contracting fundamentals, including the nature of government contracts, agency and legislation influences, and the basic legal considerations and peculiarities of government contracts. Hearn also provides an excellent comparison between government contracts and private sector contracts, comparing more than 25 factors between each. He then moves into the historical evolution of the federal acquisition process to where it is today. Hearn provides an excellent review of the advantages and disadvantages of different contract types from a government, as well as contractor perspective.
Hearn begins Part 2, "The Pre-award Phase of Federal Contracting," with a chapter on developing competitive proposals, organizing a proposal team, deciding the bid/ no-bid decision, and various proposal development methods.
He focuses on technical, management, and cost proposals and then moves into the government source selection process. He includes examples of source selection evaluation criteria, in addition to weighted proposal evaluation factors. The text provides a good overview of contracts documentation, discussing contract format, provisions, and exhibits, and also provides a handy statement of work (SOW) checklist. The chapter on "Fundamentals of Negotiation" is an excellent primer on government contract negotiations. His discussion of negotiations strategy, tactics, and techniques provide hard-to-find guidance for novice and seasoned negotiators alike. The section on "words used to frame questions," "basic rules of negotiations," and "table tactics for bargaining" is especially useful for negotiation tactics plans.
The final section of the text, Part 3, "The Post-award Phase of Federal Contracting," completes the discussion on government contracting with a thorough discussion of contract administration, contract financing, managing contract changes, government property, and quality assurance. The author's treatment of data, patents, and copyrights sheds some much-needed light on this misunderstood and disputed aspect of federal contracting. His review of contract termination, closeout, and identification of potential contract closure problems is especially noteworthy.
Hearn ends his text with a chapter on contractual challenges, including disputes, claims, appeals, and mistakes. These chapters, along with an enriching glossary of terms and an extensive listing of reference documents and supplemental readings, makes this book a valuable desktop reference that should be kept within arm's reach of any serious contracts manager, working for the government or industry. This book is appropriate for students enrolled in college-level government contracting programs, or as a key reference in preparing for the contracting professional certification exams.
About the Reviewer
LTC RENE G. RENDON, CPCM, CACM, is a director of contracts far the Space Based Infrared Systems Space and Missile Systems Center at the Los Angeles Air Force Base. He is a Fellow and a member of the Los Angeles-South Bay Chapter. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.